Thursday, August 25, 2011

Defining Your MBA Priorities

For some of you, classes have already started. You’ve begun to feel the rigor of the MBA or perhaps become adjusted to drinking out of the fire hose. You’ve probably heard a few anecdotes on “Time Management” and how it will get you through the year.

Rightly so! Time management is going to be your best friend through the next few months. However, time management can only be fulfilling and productive when you have clear goals that define your MBA priorities. I don’t just mean your concentration, or where you plan to get your summer internship or full-time job, but what you want to get out of your MBA program.

Your MBA experience will be filled with various activities – classes, office hours, recruiting information sessions, networking opportunities, personal activities (i.e. family, friends, working out, sleep, etc.), running for a leadership or representative position, being involved with a club, getting to know classmates,… and the list continues.

When I started my MBA, I set up a few key goals that defined how I spent my time:
*Make sure I learned from every class, the goals isn’t just getting a high pass or A;
*Get to know my classmates and seek out professional mentors;
*Be in a position to drive change and make an impact on my business school, etc.

Once my goals were clear, they defined how I managed my time - Do I want to play tennis with a classmate, meet with a mentor for lunch, or study an extra hour of finance; should I run for the student representative position or settle for a leadership position in a club or both; do I attend the information session or go hear the CEO of another company speak? Neither of the options you face in business school will be unproductive, but having clear goals will help guide your choices amid the flurry of activities and ways you could spend your limited 24 hour days. Remember, priorities can change, so feel free to make adjustments in your goals throughout the next two years.

Oyinade Ogunbekun, Forte Fellow
Class of 2012, Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding Your Dream School

Finding the right school is as important as any other aspect of your business school application process. After all you will be leaving behind your comforts to spend 2 years in a completely new environment. There are various reasons why people choose to apply to certain schools but I can speak for all MBAs out there when I say that people should apply to the right school based on characteristics that fit their personal objectives. Here are some characteristics to take into account when finding the right school.

Location: whether you prefer metropolitan cities or small college towns make sure the location ties into your expectations.

Student body: More than half of your MBA learning will come from the interactions with the student body around you particularly with the case based studies and leadership learnings. Therefore it is important that the student body is diverse not only in ethnicity but also in industry backgrounds, age, gender, and work experience.

Curriculum: Try to find schools that fit your style of learning. Many individuals prefer to learn in classroom or lecture settings, many prefer team based or case settings and others prefer a balance of both. Read about the professors (i.e. their past experiences, their teaching techniques, where they stand in their fields of study). Additionally, aim to have an understanding of the type of MBA you desire, whether it is customized (Marketing, Finance, Consulting, etc) or general management because many schools vary in these aspects.

Career placement: Many companies have strong affiliations to certain MBA programs so it is important to check recruiting stats by each school. Depending on what industry, company, or functional role you wish to pursue, this could be a deciding factor in finding the right school.

Personal touch: There is always something endearing about a school that makes you feel like you belong to the community rather than becoming just another face in the crowd. Characteristics ranging from size of the class to receiving that phone call from an admissions staff are just some small things that can truly impact your decision on picking the right school.

These are only a few characteristics to help you get started on your school search. The driving force in finding the right school is to make sure the school has the necessary tools and resources to help you reach your ultimate career goals so make sure you DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Piya Dey, Forte Fellow
Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University
MBA Class of 2013

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bringing Your Significant Other to Business School

While the decision to attend business school is a difficult choice for everyone, it becomes even more complicated when you are in a committed relationship. The choice suddenly moves away from being all about you and your career, to what is best for you and your family. With dozens of other factors weighing into your decision to attend business school (or even what school to attend!), the process can quickly become overwhelming.

When my husband and I started deciding whether I should go back to school (an eventually which school I should attend), we did several things that helped make the decision much easier:

1. Make a 10 year plan. It may sound silly, but if where you want to be in 10 years doesn’t involve a path where you went back to school, getting your MBA may not be the best choice for your family.

2. Reach out to the admissions committee in any school you are potentially interested in, specifically regarding their support of spouses/partners. Many schools have official programs to help partners through the transition of business school, including both career resources and social programs.

3. Talk to the state department of labor for each school you are interested in. I was surprised with how helpful they are in job searches, and for information regarding the job market in specific areas.

4. Decide whether or not a long distance relationship is an option for you. Every couple is different, and from my observations of my classmates thus far, there is a pretty balanced mix of partners who moved together, and partners who have chosen to live apart for the two years of business school.

5. Have completely candid communication with your spouse/partner. Make a deal in the beginning of the process that both of your opinions matter and deserve to be heard. It’s hard to come so close to making a decision, and then realize you were not on the same page.

While there is no right choice for everyone, thoroughly examining every option before making “the decision” will only help you in the long run. For my husband and I, the right choice was moving together to Ithaca, but that did not come without hours of research and open conversation.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Lindsay Petrovic, Forté Foundation Fellow
Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

Monday, August 22, 2011

Insider's Perspective of an MBA Friend

As it's back to school time for most MBA programs, talented prospective applicants have been seeking advice from my business school classmates and I on applying.

Without knowing a friend or two enrolled at a top MBA program, it's challenging to identify all the resources that some better-informed are aware of. While occasionally downplayed in its use for self-perception, these resources are what I would share with you if you turned to me as a friend.

Apart from your GMAT/GPA stats, your MBA application can be distilled into three distinct areas you control:

I. Experiences:
I've gifted this recently published book, The MBA Reality Check: Make the School You Want, Want You, to friends seeking to best position their profiles and experiences into their applicancy, short and long-term goals included. As of this blog post, all 13 reviews are rated 5 of 5.

II. Written Application:
a. Essay/Recommendations/Application:
Find a trusted friend - possibly one in business school - to help proofread your essay and offer a counter-opinion. Yet, as friends and family are often all too eager to offer an opinion, don't share your essay with too many readers for risk of losing your distinct voice and internal compass on where to head. I found my own sister the most brutally honest with me, and she became the only person to proofread my essays.

b. School visit:
Make an effort to visit business schools before you write your essays. In writing about why you want to attend program X, there's no greater substitute for genuine interest in attending a program than if you invested time into witnessing a class, speaking with a student group, etc. This would also crystallize why you may want to attend one program over the other, helping prioritize your application submissions.

III. Verbal Interview:
Talented candidates on paper may be invited to top-tier schools for interviews, yet a bottleneck for admissions can be the interview itself. You are competing against applicants who may have prepared by seeking the counsel of family and friends, bulleted out their responses, and crystallized their answers. MBA mock interview services such videos of benchmark interviews, and InterviewBay and's mock interview services may be worth exploring.

This is the first in a series of blog posts to level access to information and opportunities for prospective MBA students. What topics would you like explored further? Please comment, and I'll respond in-line or via a future post. All the best!

Tiffany Kosolcharoen, Forté Fellow
Class of 2013, MIT Sloan School of Management

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

B-School in your backyard? Don’t stop there.

As the start of my first year of business school approaches in just a couple of weeks, I wanted to reach out to everyone to help you avoid making the same mistake I did. You see I almost missed out on business school and the amazing opportunity of being a Forte fellow.

When I decided to go to business school to earn my MBA, I zoned in on only one school, my alma mater which happened to be in the city I was living in at the time. It seemed logical at the time. I’m a non-traditional student. I am older, married with a teenage daughter. Going back to my alma mater would cause the least disruption for my family. So I only applied there with no thought that I would not be accepted. Wrong! I was shocked when I was rejected. And unfortunately I didn’t get the rejection until after many top-tier programs final deadlines. I truly feared that I would have to wait another year to go to school.

So what did I do? I had a total pity party for a day, and then I made the decision which I should have made initially. I expanded my search and looked at schools all across the country that were still accepting applications. I submitted four more applications, and I was accepted at all of them. The closest school was over 900 miles away, and the farthest school was over 1600 miles away. I finally accepted the offer from the school that I was accepted to last, The University of Illinois. It is over 1000 miles from my hometown. But it is the right place for me and my family to be.

I challenge each of you to not be bound by where you currently live when thinking about getting your MBA. That is the easy road to take. Life is about taking risks. Don’t settle. Demand better. You are worth it.

I’d be happy to talk to anyone about my experiences, especially if you are a non-traditional applicant like me. My email address is

Stephanie Barry, Forte Fellow
Class of 2013, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Networking: Maximizing Your MBA Investment

Wondering how you can maximize the benefit of your MBA investment? Prospective and current MBA students are increasingly concerned with how they can distinguish themselves among their peers in an increasingly competitive post-MBA job market. According to a recent survey of over 250 current MBA students and graduates, the overwhelming majority of respondents noted that “networking” was the number one way that they could improve their job prospects and career search success.

The good news is that 85% of your peers felt that their career choices and job prospects improved over the previous graduating class and nearly 70% of respondents were satisfied with their school’s efforts to provide them with opportunities to help their job searches. That being said, past and present MBAs have reiterated time and time again that proactively seeking out and engaging in every opportunity to learn more about and connect with people who are already engaged in your field of interest are essential aspects of the job search process.

MBAs advise prospective students to “develop a refined networking strategy prior to enrolling” and to “start networking immediately after starting your MBA program, rather than waiting until the last few months before you start applying for jobs.” While it is certainly important for prospective MBAs to choose a program that fits their learning objectives and professional interests, current MBAs advise prospective students to be increasingly cognizant of the strength of the program’s networking opportunities. Current students and recent graduates noted that programs which offer practical experience in specific professions and industries are invaluable in that they allow students to test whether or not their career aspirations are realistic and, most importantly, a good fit.

What are some specific actions you can take to develop your professional network and improve your job prospects? Here’s some of the advice that your peers had to offer: attend industry specific seminars/conferences, go to career fairs/exhibitions, set up informational interviews with professionals in your field of interest, and take on more industry consulting projects to get firsthand experience and exposure to management in the area of business that you are most interested in pursuing. Additionally, don’t forget to keep in touch with the people you meet while attending networking events, participating in internships, and working on consulting projects.

One student wrote that, “An MBA program is a chance to get to know a lot of people that can be interested in your work or even recommend you to a job.” Among the most important people to develop connections with are alumni, mentors, and professors who may work in industries or professions that interest you. Finally, a group of individuals that MBAs can often overlook when thinking about expanding their professional networks is their MBA program’s student body. Don’t underestimate the value and potential of connecting with your peers!

Peter von Loesecke
CEO, The MBA Tour

The MBA Tour is an international business education recruitment platform with emphasis on personal interaction between prospective MBA students, business school admission representatives, alumni and other like-minded education enthusiasts.

The MBA Tour is hosting upcoming events in:
Asia: Toyko, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Bangkok
Europe: Istanbul, Moscow, Kiev
India: Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune
Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary
As well as future events in the USA and Latin America

Register at:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Road to Business School: Getting the Most Out of It

The Road to Business School is shifting into high gear. We’ve made stops in London, Atlanta, and Dallas, and tonight (Tuesday, August 9) we’re moving on to Chicago. Personally I was able to make it to London and will be rejoining the tour on the west coast. Here are my suggestions on how to get the most of the series.

Get to know the MBA. You may have one or more friends or mentors who have been through the MBA process. Their perspective is valuable, and if you haven’t tapped into it yet, that’s worth doing as soon as you’re getting serious about a business degree.

But there are some respects in which it’s superior to talk with admissions officers and alumni representing MBA programs. First, admissions staff are more knowledgeable about their programs. By challenging yourself and them on the reservations you have the general MBA path or a specific one, you can refine your decision-making process and maybe even your career plans. One example from London: a number of attendees at London had assumptions about what was a “normal” geography to apply from vs. studying vs. working afterward. The variety examples in the room quickly proved that any plan was “normal,” as long as it was logical for that particular applicant.

Get to know business schools. You might already have a laser target on a very small number of business schools. I’m not going to try to talk you out of that perspective, which may be well informed. Regardless, try speaking with some programs about which you’re less knowledgeable. You’ll want to avoid asking overly obvious questions, or making inquiries that are answerable through a simple web search. One safe and easy topic to discuss is a school’s culture. The more you talk to business schools, the better you will get at understanding their perspective and relating to it.

Don’t forget to talk a little bit about yourself. It’s amusing that prospective MBAs, who have a reputation at times for egocentrism, tend to speak to admissions officers at networking events such as Road without mentioning much about themselves. Sure enough, you won’t be able to conduct an interview at a networking event, and if you appear eager to try to do so, you’ll come off as unpolished. But mentioning a little bit about yourself and why you want an MBA goes a long way. It makes you more interesting and helps admissions officers help you.

For information on where the Road to Business School is headed next and who will be there, see Whether you’re headed abroad or next door, we’re here to help you succeed on the journey.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cultivating Our Inner Voice: Year 1

Fall is fast approaching. With the arrival of August comes not only a return to course work, but the chance to greet new students and old friends, the excitement of reviewing course loads and meeting new professors.

This still-quiet moment between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next is a good time to take stock of all that happened in my first year of my MBA program. As returning student, with 15 years of senior management in the work force, I was nervous about making the transition back to school. I found Mills to be a great place to contribute, no matter your background. I was thrilled that my professors were so welcoming, eager to make use of my knowledge base, and that my cohorts were truly appreciative of my real world experience and know-how.

In the whirlwind of those first few months, the most valuable 3 things I did were:
a) immediately connect with our Career Services Group to plan my summer internship and future job goals
b) set aside 30 minutes at the BEGINNING of every day to assess, plan, prioritize
c) set aside ANOTHER 30 minutes a day, after lunch, to sit quietly and simply process my thoughts and feelings, without judgment.

There is so much input in the first few months of an MBA program. With all the new intellectual, professional and social demands, it’s important to develop a practice of listening to our individual inner voice, as we adjust to the intensity of business school. Most of us are high achievers, which creates intense stress. And, in this economy, there is a lot of turmoil, drama, fear in the market, as well as incredible opportunity. Given all this, it’s crucial to cultivate our private, inner voice. I came to rely on my private time, reflecting each day, to adjust my course when needed. When others around me became overloaded with stress, I knew that I had an oasis of calm that I could rely on, as I achieved my own A’s, wrote papers and responded to team project demands.

Cultivating our inner voice, and responding to it, is an important part of achieving success, no matter our situation, but in business school, it’s especially vital.

I also read a couple of great books last semester.

"Workforce 2020" by Judy Richard and Carol D’Amico opened my eyes to the future state of workers, and "Changing the Game" by David Edery, Ethan Mollick. My industry is feature film and these two books contained new ideas for me. I also hooked into the TED broadcasts and was thrilled with Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world and Josette Sheeran: Ending hunger now. We have a strong Net Impact chapter at Mills and this year I’m VP of Community Partnerships.

I want to be even more engaged this semester.

Business school passes in a flash. Make the most of your time. Invest and engage deeply.

But don’t forget to spend a little time privately each day, quietly and without judgment, listening to and cultivating your uniquely personal, valuable and independent point of view. By cultivating your inner voice, you strengthen your capacity to respond with flexibility and wisdom to the changing world, and to the challenges of your new adventure in business school.

Julie McDonald, Forte Fellow
Mills College
Class of 2012

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2011 Forté Forums: Inspiration, Opportunity and the MBA

The Forté Forums are open for registration! From professional success to personal fulfillment, don’t miss this opportunity to discover what an MBA can do for you. It’s an investment in your future that will yield dividends for a lifetime.

Are you ready to invest in yourself? Perhaps you’ve been thinking about your next career move, how you will get there, and what impact you want to have. If so, the Forté Forums are a critical next step. You’ll have the opportunity to ask candid questions of women who had similar questions, have lived and breathed the MBA experience, and are now pursuing their dream careers. You’ll meet admissions representatives from top B-schools who can enlighten you about the MBA application process and provide insight into their specific program subtleties, all within a smaller, more intimate atmosphere than other B-school events. And finally, there will be hundreds of women just like you in attendance—women searching for that next career move, trying to determine if the MBA is the right fit. What a great opportunity to start building your MBA network for the future!

The best thing about the Forté Forums is that they are 100% focused on helping women explore the MBA. The questions are different for women and so are the answers. That’s what why Forté created the Forums.

Are you convinced yet? Please join Forté at our 2011 Forté Forums: Inspiration, Opportunity and the MBA this September and October. Past attendees have said that the Forums are unique because of the “support” and “encouragement” received and the “abundance of valuable information provided.” Take advantage of this great opportunity and invest in yourself—you won’t regret it.

Elissa Sangster
Executive Director, Forté Foundation